VINA, Calif. - Pope Francis's trip to America took on a special significance for the 24 monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina.
"The Pope has shown himself as a real world spiritual leader," said Father Thomas Davis, a monk and previous abbot of the monastery.
Most significant was the Pope's speech to a joint session of Congress in which he invoked the name of Thomas Merton, who like the brothers in Vina, was a Cistercian monk. Merton was a religious author, student of religion and social activist whom the Pope said people of all faiths can learn from.
"Well, to hear his name mentioned was a total surprise," said Father Thomas, who knew Merton when the two were part of the Abbey of Gethsemani more than 60 years ago.
"Thomas Merton's conversion was rather significant," said Father Thomas. "He is a sign of hope in our days that regardless of a previous life, it is still possible to turn to God and become persons of prayer."